The most playable war game to ever grace the PC has , gone budget. Wargasm is a 3D-arcade shooter that looks like a hard-core simulation - but thankfully isn't. Set across a succession of moodily lit 3Dfx battlefields including Europe and South America, your task is to win each mission by brutally destroying everything you see with a hefty selection of modern-day ordinance, as well as new destructive technologies you find along the way. At your disposal are tanks, choppers and ground commandos, all of which can be zoomed into and controlled from the overall battle map. Most terrifying of all is Mother Nature herself (check out the sound of pounding rain on a soldier's helmet). Wargasm is real war made easy, and simply a joy to play. Get it
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Occasional forays into emotional puppeteering aside, Saving Private Ryan was a great movie. And an unusual one: a Hollywood epic prepared to spend three gut-wrenching hours reiterating the message that war is the single most obscene thing in the world... ever!
Unless you're a callous, sneering husk of a being, you can't help to have been moved by the plight of these men, these regular Joes, struggling with an amoral landscape of surreal and nauseating violence. You caught a glimpse of the gnawing terror that accompanied each second in the firing line. You witnessed the stealth with which death savages its victims. The sickening wonder of men's bodies churned to offal before your saucered eyes left you dizzied, sent you reeling. And as the closing credits began their scroll, you shambled from your seat somehow changed, humbled by the thankless sacrifice of a generation, freshly aghast at the very notion of violence. Well, we did anyway.
Then along comes bloody WarGasm, and suddenly the spectacle of war has us dribbling like excitable toddlers. We're zooming across the countryside in an assault helicopter, strafing battlefields with a smile. We're crouched beneath a tree in some bedrizzled hilltop grove, tossing grenades at a passing convoy, chortling inwardly each time a truck goes up in flames. Or we're rattling around in a Chieftain tank pursuing a blameless grunt across acres of scorched dune before running him down, guffawing like donkeys when hot red blood sploshes upward from the base of the screen, as if someone dropped a rock in a wine vat somewhere below our field of vision. WarGasm stands accused of transforming committed pacifists into bloodthirsty ogres prepared to rub their hands together and bathe in the debauchery of war. Verdict: guilty.
You see, this is just a bit too playable. It does for military simulators what Commands Conquer did for wargames: makes them accessible, fast and fun. Once word of mouth gets around, WarGasm will fly off the shelves. Christmas '98 is going to ring to the sound of gunfire and happy cash registers. And here's why.
If you're anything like us, you've often gasped at screenshots of the latest flight sim and marvelled at how photorealistic they look - the convincing terrain, the smoking missile trails, the detail, the lens flare... It's begging for a play. So you buy it. And then reality lurches up and elbows you in the throat.
The manual consists entirely of indecipherable jargon, and is sufficiently bulky to crush a small dog. There are a billion different keyboard commands to memorise, and to pilot your craft properly you're expected to buy a 500 joystick the length of a horse's penis, then sit with it jutting from between your thighs, feverishly manipulating the matt-black shaft like some obscene future-sex cyborg. Once you're finally up in the virtual sky, it gets worse.
White-knuckle dogfight fantasies are cruelly replaced with interminable exercises in trailing a pixel-sized bogey for 87 million miles until you loop the loop with sheer frustration and explode against the side of an unprepossessing hillock. Tank simulators aren't much better - just harder to crash.
WarGasm shovels all that bullshit right down a very large toilet. It combines the stunning visuals of a high-end sim with the instant playability of an arcade game. The single trickiest thing to learn is the concept of steering a turret in one direction while the body of your tank goes in another (it's a left brain/right brain thing - once you've cracked it, you're in).
There's a faintly apologetic storyline stringing the whole thing together, something about futuristic 'virtual wars' fought on a global military network, but that shouldn't concern you in the slightest. What is important is the level of immersion. You can drown in this sucker.
Get this: you don't just control one 'thing', you're running your own little army, a la Command & Conquer. And as was the case in C&C, the start of each level finds you eyeballing a landscape from overhead, with just your assembled forces and a set of objectives for company. To command a unit to move or attack something, just point and click. So far, so familiar. Then the fun bit starts.
Double-click on any of your units and you're plunged into a real-time 3D viewpoint and the game becomes an arcade-style simulator. It doesn't matter what type of unit you choose - tanks, helicopters, armoured personnel carriers, foot soldiers - it all looks and feels intrinsically real. DID have years of simulation experience, and in WarGasm it pays off big-time. Everything, from the movement of the tank tracks to the scarlet glow of the desert sunset, is entirely convincing. The sheer amount of detail is astonishing. During a thunderstorm, for instance, you can hear the sound of rain rattling on a trooper's tin helmet, or switch viewpoints and watch water spattering on to the 'camera' itself. Dawn, misty mornings, bright afternoons, golden sundowns and icy twilights are also recreated for your viewing pleasure.
Not that you notice. You're too busy blowing the shinola out of everything, accompanied by the stirring Wagner soundtrack (note to developers: more classical music in games, please).
The Identification Game
Imagine you're playing, say, Command & Conquer, and you decide to send one little guy in to do a bit of reconnaissance before you plan your main assault. As you watch him scampering toward the enemy, all on his lonesome, you can't help rooting for him, as you would for any cinematic underdog.
So what? So this: in WarGasm, you can actually be that guy. You have to dodge the bullets, clamber up the side of the mountain and peer at the enemy stronghold through your sniper sights. At which point you might decide to send in a trio of heavy-duty tanks to do some shelling. Well guess what: you get to roll on in there and do all the aiming and blasting too. Or, if you prefer, visit the map screen, order the tanks to attack, then let their AI take care of it while you commandeer your lone soldier and skulk in round the back entrance with a pocketful of hand grenades. Your call.
Once you've polished off one mission, it's on to the next. The levels are staged across the globe - complete a whole region (Europe, say, or South America), and your prize is a selection of nouveau technologies. And units. And weapons of mass destruction. And, therefore, fun.
But before we go, a quick cold shower: the game isn't perfect. In fact, we've got loads of little niggles: why can't you use the mouse to turn your head or the turret? Why can't you swap from one unit to another without having to visit the map screen first? Why are the missions so 'samey'? Why aren't there more multiplayer options, or wider variety in the 'instant action' arcade mode? Most importantly, why isn't the AI more trustworthy? Units sometimes do very stupid things amounting to self-destruction, leaving you so enraged you'll want to stand up and hurl shoes at the screen.
So WarGasm isn't faultless. Still, overall it rocks bells. It's a wildly ambitious game. And while it can't achieve everything it sets out to do, it accomplishes enough to warrant your attention and custom. DID deserve a warm rub-down for producing a delicate blend of action and strategy and, aside from anything else, doing it differently. Drop curtain. Cue applause.
Hey, everybody - make love, not war.
That name. That bloody name. WartSasm. Sticks in the memory, granted, but come on. The art of love and the art of war are, and always should be, two entirely separate things. Granted, soldiers are notoriously sex mad.
But if your daily routine involved early morning runs on a diet of gruel, with occasional breaks for murder and bullet-dodging, you'd be fixated with basic physical pleasures too. Come sundown, the average barrack room resembles a covert pornographic chorus line, as rows of low-browed Essex boys thrash themselves senseless over a torch-lit copy of Snatch Enthusiast Come the dawn, their blankets have the consistency of a Rice Krlspie Square.
It's no better when they're out in the field. Liberate a town, and within minutes the entire battalion's regrouped in the local salon d'amour, lovelessly squirting its collective biological gravy over the veiny chests of a roomful of toothless buck-a-go 50-year-olds.
Make no mistake, soldiers are simply nutsy-cuckoo about sexual intercourse. But they never get aroused during battle itself. That's for slckos. Or for people showing off their new 3D cards with a copy of this game. Just don't mix one with the other.
Just like 'the kids', they're wearing Caterpillars
Volvo owners like to think their cars are sturdy and protective, but If they bumped into one of these behemoths their car would crumple like an aluminium can. Built like a brick defecation parlour, fitted with 'go anywhere' caterpillar treads, tanks are the mechanical equivalent of a burly outdoorsman with a job to do.
Driving the tank is fun, although since the turret turns independently it's easy to get confused in the heat of the moment - although that's also part of the charm. An interesting experiment is to play with a friend on a single keyboard - one steering, the other aiming the turret. Aside from tanks, you've also got APCs and anti-aircraft units to toy with. Like a madman.
Blue Thunder, Airwolf, Budgie...
The temptation to spew out some 'chopper' gags is great, but that would be about as funny as a fish hook in the eye, so instead we'll simply state facts. Helicopters represent the utmost in military yin and yang: absolutely devastating when delivering a salvo of air-to-ground missiles, pathetically exposed when targeted by units on the ground. There's nothing as satisfying as wiping out a whiriybird, especially if you're playing as a grunt. But equally, little matches the warm glow you get from annihilating an entire squadron with a blanket of hi-tech whizzbangs.
Oh, and do watch the ground: smacking into the side of buildings or trees can still mess you up.
Private Ryan? Who he?
For highly personal thrill-mongering, ground troops can't be beat. Foot soldiers are ideal for surprise assaults on enemy turf - they're adept at sneaking around unnoticed, planting bombs and sniping. There is one major drawback, however they're not exactly armour-plated, and are therefore exceptionally vulnerable. And not just to gunfire either; being squished by tanks is a further hazard.
Controlling a soldier feels a little odd at first - you can twist their upper torso in the same manner as a tank's turret, but sadly you can't use the mouse a la Quake. Once you've come to terms with that, however, there's nothing to quite match the joy of training an enemy helicopter in your sights, or the pant-staining terror of a mid-afternoon jog through a criss-cross barrage of heavy gunfire.